Bedtime Routines: The Key to Sound Baby Sleep!

Ann Caird, postnatal Doula and infant sleep consultant

One of the easiest ways to help your little one sleep well is by establishing a relaxing bedtime routine. Babies and toddlers naturally enjoy routines – and establishing a consistent bedtime routine from about 3 months of age can have huge benefits for you and your baby throughout her childhood!

A well planned, relaxing bedtime routine ‘sets the scene’ for sleep. Research has demonstrated that establishing a consistent bedtime routine can reduce the time it takes for babies to fall asleep and decrease night wakings. But that’s not all – a routine can help prevent bedtime battles later in childhood because once established, it provides valuable wind-down time and clear, predictable steps to bedtime which communicate that it’s nearly time to sleep.

Top bedtime routine tips:

  • Reduce activity levels and encourage quieter play after tea and before the bedtime routine starts.

 

  • Plan a routine that works for you; one that you know you can manage and maintain consistently.

 

  • Keep it simple, about 30-45 minutes; for example bath, massage, into comfy nightwear, feed/drink, picture book/story, cuddles, lullaby….

 

  • Include massage; massage is relaxing and calming. It prepares your baby for sleep and it will help her associate her feelings of calmness and relaxation with sleep and her cot.

 

  • Think about context; start your routine in the bathroom and complete it in the bedroom, keep lighting low. Low lighting and darkness triggers the release of oxytocin and the sleepy hormone melatonin that helps to calm the brain.

 

  • Avoid feeding your baby to sleep; ensure feeding isn’t the last stage of your routine. Put your baby into the cot drowsy, relaxed and calm ready to fall asleep by herself.

 

  • Use a shorter version of your bedtime routine for daytime naps; nappy change, into sleep clothes (comfy sleepwear = comfy sleep!) drink/feed, book, cuddle and into the cot to settle to sleep.

 

  • Consistency is key! Little ones thrive on familiar, predictable routines, because routines communicate to them what it’s time to do and what’s happening next. So, your relaxing bedtime routine will help your little one feel emotionally safe and secure; feelings of emotional wellbeing at bedtime is the foundation of happy, sound sleep!

 

Further Reading:

Mindell, J, Telofski, L., Wiegand, B and Kurtz, E. A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood.  Sleep Vol 32; No 5. 2009.

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